Making Collaborative Advocacy Work

From GrantCraft and IssueLab

For funders working to create big change on a tough issue, collaboration is key. Working with other, like-minded funders can bring more resources, expertise and energy to an advocacy campaign, with a resulting impact much greater than the sum of its parts. But funder collaborations can be tricky; conflicts over decision-making power and competition for resources can become sticking points that can derail an entire campaign.

The Foundation Center (now Candid), created a set of resources that provide insights into the value of multi-party advocacy, common sticking points and how to work through them. This includes a content series from GrantCraft that captures insights and reflections from foundation leaders about advocacy-focused funder collaboratives as well as an IssueLab collection of more than 40 publications on lessons learned from past funder collaborations.

The GrantCraft content series dives deep into candid reflections from philanthropic leaders about advocacy collaboratives and how funders can apply lessons to their own approach. Each bite-sized resource focuses on a different aspect of advocacy collaboratives. The series includes:

  • Deep dives on common “sticking points” in funder collaborations, including groupthink, personality conflicts, strategy alignment and trepidation around funding policy advocacy.
  • Guidance for foundations seeking to answer specific questions, such as “Do we need additional staff to do this?” and “Does the size of the foundations involved matter?”
  • A decision-making tree that surfaces important questions that are critical to answer before embarking on a collaborative funding strategy.

“No matter what the issue, the more funders know and trust each other, the more successful they are.”


The IssueLab special collection brings together current reports, case studies, and evaluations on this topic, including:

  • Publications highlighting achievements and lessons learned by funder collaborations in specific geographies, including the Ohio Transformation Fund, the New York Community Trust, the Community Connections program in Detroit and a collaboration of California funders working together to increase civic participation and voting in the state.
  • Reports on the work of funder collaborations focused on specific issues, including implementation of the Common Core Standards, marriage equality and immigration reform.
  • Reflections on what it means to be a collaborative funder and how multi-party advocacy works more broadly, including:
    • Many Hands, More Impact, a publication prepared
      by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations that
      provides a framework for the many different
      roles funders can play in supporting advocacy
      movements, and how they can best explore collaborative efforts for social change;
    • A report commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation examining what motivates foundations to engage in federal policy advocacy, the methods they use to do so and the results they achieve;
    • An exploration of the Packard Foundation’s work with other funders, categorized into five distinct models of funder collaboration from knowledge exchange to co-creating new entities.

These resources are part of the Atlas Learning Project, an initiative to draw on the considerable experiences and insights of The Atlantic Philanthropies as its grantmaking came to a close. The Atlas Learning Project was a three-year effort coordinated by the Center for Evaluation Innovation to synthesize and share lessons from advocacy and policy change efforts that Atlantic and other funders have supported in the U.S., with the goal of helping push philanthropy and advocacy in bolder and more effective directions.